The Weather Channel first launched in May, 1982 and since has become one of the most prominent sources (if not the most) of weather news. Nowadays, The Weather Channel has become more than just a cable network, providing consumers with multiple methods of weather news, including browser plugins, desktop widgets and even SMS text updates. So when the App Store was first introduced in July, 2008 The Weather Channel app was released four months later to eager iPhone users.
Since its release, The Weather Channel app has maintained a three and a half star rating from nearly 350,000 ratings, which is respectable considering most apps from big name companies usually do not fare well in that system (e.g. Facebook and Twitter). Recently, version 5.0 was released, offering “the first major redesign since [The Weather Channel’s] initial launch in 2008.” So does the redesign mean an approved user experience? Let us find out after the jump.
The New Interface
If you’ve ever used The Weather Channel app before the redesign, you’re probably familiar with the web 2.0 design (i.e. wide use of gradients and gloss) and a vast usage of blue. While gloss and gradients are still prominently featured, version 5.0 sports a much cleaner and more simple user interface.
Instead of solid color backgrounds, we now see background images of current weather conditions, with information displaying in the foreground. While this isn’t exactly a new feature in the world of weather apps, I really enjoy The Weather Channel’s use of simple backgrounds that don’t overpower the information that’s displayed (as seen in other apps like Weather° or Weather 2x).
The Weather Channel still offers five sections, including Weather, Maps, Video, Social and In Season; however, the Severe section has removed, which will likely irk a multitude of users (including myself). The main section (i.e. Weather) automatically provides the weather conditions for your current location (provided you gave the app the right to access your location). When you tap on the little plus icon located just below the main info, you’re provided with various weather details (e.g. wind, humidity, dew point and visibility).
Similar to the previous app, you can view weather information in an Hourly, 36-Hour or 10-Day breakdown. A new feature that’s really handy is the ability to add multiple saved locations, so when you’re looking at the current weather condition, you can flick to the right or left to change the location. In addition, there is a new photo sharing feature (accessed by tapping the camera icon) which lets you snap a photo (or upload one), add a description and share via The Weather Channel, Twitter, Facebook or email.
One of the more interesting things about The Weather Channel is the social aspect provided throughout the app. I know that weather is a topic that’s frequented in small talk, especially for people that don’t know each other very well, but it’s intriguing to see how many people really enjoy posting tweets and photos about weather. It’s worth noting that any tweets displayed are submitted from within the app (i.e. tweets about weather that are posted from another Twitter application won’t be displayed).
The iWitness section displays photos and videos submitted by users, and typically feature weather conditions in some way, shape or form. Since there appears to be little or no screening process, you’ll come across photos of of people or inanimate objects from time to time. To post photos or videos you’ll need to register for an iWitness account.
The Map section automatically pinpoints the location you have set in the Weather section and displays a rain/snow radar (you can also choose from other map layers, including clouds and temperature). If you tap on the play button you can view the movement of the rain/snow over the course of nearly two hours. If you’ve ever used The Weather Channel website, you may be familiar with The Next 6 Hours feature that will show a prediction of the rain/snow’s movement, which is a feature I’d really like to see in the app.
The Video Section is divided into five subsections (two more than the previous version of the app), including Must See, Local/U.S., World and On TV. The Local/U.S. subsection provides video forecasts for the nation and your region, as well as any severe weather in the country (The World subsection provides similar forecasts for entire countries). The Must See subsection includes videos of various new stories, and the On TV section provides clips from Weather Channel shows (e.g. Iron Men and Ice Pilots).
The In Season section provides information regarding national pollen (i.e. tree, weed and grass) levels in the form of a map (the darker the color the higher the pollen). In addition, you can see a three-day outlook of local pollen forecast levels, which is displayed below the maps. At the time of this writing, the app is not displaying any local pollen information, which may be a bug since the website is showing a low and medium level of tree and weed pollen in my area.
I find it difficult to be pleased by most weather apps available for the iPhone. As a former Android user, I really enjoyed using widgets to get my weather information, and I finally got a taste of that in iOS with the inclusion of weather information displayed in the Notification Center. With that being my central place for weather info, the third-party weather app I’m looking for should include a radar map and additional information not found in the iOS Weather app (e.g. wind, humidity and dew point).
The Weather Channel definitely hits the spot with all those features, and with the version 5.0 redesign, does so in style; however, the app itself can be a bit unstable at times (I’ve experienced cases of it crashing and freezing up on multiple occasions). In addition, the banner ads featured at the top are highly annoying with no way of ridding them with an in-app purchase. There is a paid version of The Weather Channel app, but it hasn’t received the redesign treatment yet.
Ultimately, I’ll probably keep The Weather Channel tucked away in a folder when I need weather information I can’t get from the Notification Center weather widget. For those who don’t take advantage of the built-in Weather app and widget, I definitely recommend The Weather Channel as your go-to source for weather news.